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Insights from U.K. Radio Listening

November 4, 2021

Last week RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) released the most recent radio listening data for the U.K., and they yielded some interesting results. Especially when it applies to digital listening.

To begin with, radio in the U.K. is quite a bit different than radio in the U.S. The British government has a much greater presence in the industry and there has been heavy adoption of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). Many stations in the U.K. have exclusively digital over-the-air signals.

This is a big reason why 74% of Adults 15+ in the U.K. listen to digital radio every week. Further, 69% of those surveyed claim to own or have access to a DAB radio. It is worth noting that 29% of those surveyed listen to some form of live radio on either a tablet or mobile device at least once a month.

The survey found that 89% of Adults 15+ listened – read: cumed – radio every week. That is a bit less than the reach of U.S. radio. However, the amount of time they spend with radio is huge – 20.4 hours per week. That number breaks down favorably for radio as only 23% of listening hours are via apps or TV. The remainder is via DAB (43%) and traditional AM/FM radio (34%).

For British radio purveyors, this is encouraging news. Radio remains a viable listening – and advertising – medium. Given the dramatic differences between U.S. and U.K. radio, there is little to extrapolate from this data that can predict where U.S. radio is heading. What is of note was the increase in digital listening from Q1 when it was 58.9%.

Smart speaker usage also contributes mightily to radio listening. The survey reported that 48% of smart speaker owners listen to radio weekly with 20% saying they tune in every day. This trend applies directly to U.S. radio usage. Smart speaker ownership received a big boost during the height of the pandemic and likely will continue to grow. We have pointed out in the past that it’s worth looking into Nielsen’s quarterly PPM panel additional characteristics report. There is data that shows what percentage of the P6+ households have a smart speaker. While your market might vary, we generally see the ownership figure hovering around 50%.

Finally, there is location. Here in the U.S., we know that in-car listening is the primary location. In the U.K., 60% of the population is reached in their car (or lorry) and that generates 21% of all listening. Surprisingly, 67% are reached at home for a 65% share of all listening. At work only reached 19% of the population for a 14% share.

The best news is on the revenue front. According to figures from AA/WARC (as published in The Drum), radio ad spend in the U.K. is set to increase 18.6% this year. Not a huge surprise as 2020 was down. They do predict that it will grow by 4.1% in 2022.

If you would like to see some of the breakdowns, you can click here and here.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant